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Political Notebook

Virginia Thomas pressed Meadows on efforts to overturn election

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas on Oct. 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C.Drew Angerer/Getty Images/file

WASHINGTON — Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeatedly in 2020 pressed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.

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On Nov. 10, after news organizations had projected Joe Biden the winner based on state vote totals, Thomas wrote to Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!...You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

When Meadows wrote to Thomas on Nov. 24, the White House chief of staff invoked God to describe the effort to overturn the election. “This is a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows wrote. “Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.”

Thomas replied: “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now. . . I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”

It is unclear to whom Thomas was referring.

The messages, which do not directly reference Clarence Thomas or the Supreme Court, show for the first time how Ginni Thomas used her access to Trump’s inner circle to promote and seek to guide the president’s strategy to overturn the election results — and how receptive and grateful Meadows said he was to receive her advice. Among Thomas’s stated goals in the messages was for lawyer Sidney Powell, who promoted incendiary and unsupported claims about the election, to be “the lead and the face” of Trump’s legal team.

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The text messages were among 2,320 that Meadows provided to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. The existence of messages between Thomas and Meadows — 21 sent by her, eight by him — has not previously been reported and were reviewed by the Post and CBS News. They were then confirmed by five people who have seen the committee’s documents.

Meadows’s attorney, George Terwilliger III, confirmed the existence of the 29 messages between his client and Thomas. In reviewing the substance of the messages Wednesday, he said that neither he nor Meadows would comment on individual texts. But, Terwilliger added, “nothing about the text messages presents any legal issues.”

Ginni Thomas did not respond to multiple requests for comment made Thursday by e-mail and phone. Clarence Thomas, who is currently hospitalized for treatment of an infection, did not respond to a request for comment made through the Supreme Court’s public information office.

It is unknown whether Ginni Thomas and Meadows exchanged additional messages between the election and Biden’s inauguration beyond the 29 received by the committee. Shortly after providing the 2,320 messages, Meadows ceased cooperating with the committee, arguing that any further engagement could violate Trump’s claims of executive privilege. Committee members and aides said they believe the messages may be just a portion of the pair’s total exchanges.

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A spokesman for the committee declined to comment. The revelation of Ginni Thomas’s messages with Meadows comes three weeks after lawyers for the committee said in a court filing that the panel has “a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States” and obstruct the counting of electoral votes by Congress.

WASHINGTON POST

White House removes Oz, Walker from council

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The White House has removed Dr. Mehmet Oz — best known as daytime TV’s host of “The Dr. Oz Show” — and former football star Herschel Walker from the President’s Council on Sports, Nutrition and Fitness as both men run for US Senate.

Oz and Walker — both Republicans — were appointed by President Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and Oz quickly went to social media to claim that he was being removed for political reasons.

“It’s beyond sad that Joe Biden would politicize such an important issue like health,” Oz said in a video he posted to Twitter.

The White House on Wednesday posted two new appointments to the council, while a White House official said Oz and Walker were asked to resign because the White House doesn’t permit candidates for federal office to serve on boards.

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The letter from the White House Office of Presidential Personnel asked the men to resign Wednesday or be removed by the end of the day. Walker announced his candidacy in Georgia on Aug. 25 and Oz announced his candidacy in Pennsylvania on Nov. 30.

Oz said he had no intention of resigning and “if President Biden wants to politicize health, he’ll have to fire me.” Walker also took to Twitter on Thursday to attribute his removal to politics.

The White House said it made the announcement once it had appointees with which to replace Oz and Walker.

They are: José Andrés, a chef, restaurant owner and founder of World Central Kitchen, an international relief organization that promotes healthy food and deploys field kitchens to respond to food crises around the world; and Elena Delle Donne, a two-time winner of the WNBA’s most valuable player award and an Olympic gold medalist for Team USA who founded the Elena Delle Donne Charitable Foundation to raise money for Lyme disease research and special needs programs.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

High court rules censure of politician doesn’t violate free speech

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that elected bodies do not violate the First Amendment when they censure their members.

The case concerned David Wilson, a former elected trustee of the Houston Community College System and an energetic critic of its work. In addition to airing his concerns in interviews and on a website, Wilson sued the system’s board, orchestrated robocalls, and hired private investigators to look into whether another trustee had lied about where she lived.

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He was, a federal appeals court judge wrote in a dissent, a “gadfly legislator.”

In 2018, Wilson’s fellow board members issued a formal verbal reprimand against him in a censure resolution. “The board finds that Mr. Wilson’s conduct was not only inappropriate, but reprehensible, and such conduct warrants disciplinary action,” its resolution said.

He sued, saying the punishment violated the First Amendment by retaliating against him for things he had said.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the court, said Wilson misunderstood the nature of the national commitment to free speech.

“In this country,” he wrote, “we expect elected representatives to shoulder a degree of criticism about their public service from their constituents and their peers — and to continue exercising their free speech rights when the criticism comes.”

NEW YORK TIMES

Arizona bill to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks passes

PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature on Thursday joined the growing list of Republican-led states to pass aggressive antiabortion legislation as the conservative US Supreme Court is considering rolling back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.

The House voted on party lines to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, mirroring a Mississippi law now being considered by the nation’s high court.

The bill explicitly says it does not overrule a state law in place for more than 100 years that would ban abortion outright if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that enshrined the right to abortion in law.

The bill now goes to Republican Governor Doug Ducey, an abortion opponent who has signed every piece of antiabortion legislation that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015.

Florida lawmakers passed a similar 15-week abortion ban early this month that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign. A bill in West Virginia failed to pass the state Senate by the time its legislative session ended earlier this month after passing the House.

An Arizona proposal that would outlaw abortion after about six weeks has not advanced. A bill enacted in Texas last year allows private citizens to enforce the ban, and the Supreme Court refused to block it. Idaho’s governor signed a copycat bill this week.

The Arizona Legislature also passed bills to prohibit gender reassignment surgery for minors and ban transgender athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams.

Ducey has not said whether he will sign either bill. Two GOP governors this week bucked conservatives in their party and vetoed bills in Indiana and Utah requiring trans girls to play on boys’ sports teams.

ASSOCIATED PRESS